My Impressions on Art Prize 2011 from Richard Benoit

Some quick thoughts on Art Prize 2011: This year’s event attracted about 300,000 people. I was happy to exhibit this year but I feel it may be my first and last. It’s like a huge rummage sale of art. Some is excellent but you have to look very hard to find those things. Trying to traipse all over Grand Rapids (it’s something like a 4 or 5 square mile area of different locations that you have to visit) is just exhausting. Most of the art was uninspiring.

Two truisms for the common art observer are…”If I can do it it’s not art” and” If I can’t name what it is it’s not art”. Many artists seemed to have this in mind when they submitted work. There were just way too many junk sculptures that looked like animals to suite me. Jeff Koons would be king here in Grand Rapids. I’ve seen enough kitsch art to last 2 lifetimes after this.

On the flip side I saw a family with a little girl about 8 years old. She had a note pad and she’d try and reproduce each work that she thought was cool. The whole family was there checking the art out. People that would have normally been home watching some football game were instead checking out art and discussioning why they liked one piece better than another.

The winning piece (a scene of Christ’s crucifixion) is almost an embarrassment. It’s technically well done but conceptually it’s trite and overdone. You could pick the same image up at any Christian gift shop. It reminds me of the image on some rug bought out of the back of a van. 

I experienced the show once and I think that’ll do 

To see some of my work including the piece that I showed at Art Prize visit my web-site at

5 thoughts

  1. Richard…I wish I could say that I have not heard these sort of comments before regarding this event. I appreciate that you are sharing your honest experiences because I believe this view can be invaluable. I know, from other friends, that this is a unique event. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. It’s not that this event is totaly without merit. It does have many redeeming qualities and some good art. One good thing is that it exposes art to a wide swath of the population that would never go to a museum or art fair. I just feel that one needs this awareness ahead of a visit.

  3. Interesting…I did not go to Art Prize last year but when I reviewed it online I did notice a lot of clever animal pieces and found myself skimming over some of them. Perhaps this subject relates to the general public, the folks who typically spend an average weekend watching football. They are the ones voting…though I’m not saying I agree with this . It’s similar to the newspaper and writing at an 8th grade level so everyone can read it. However, this event being so large there’s something for everyone somewhere.

  4. 2012 Similar thoughts about my experience.. The overall impression is that this is more “Rio de Janeiro” carnival type of the thing not real Art competition.
    . In order to win you clearly have to create Gigantic Piece in order to impress the public with lot of Narration (interesting details) Seems to me that some people catch already on the winning cake “prescription” Like “Citi Band” and “elephants” creating monumental sizes monochromatic drawings on paper. The main thing is the size and neutral color to impress the viewer staring on the life size figures. “Elephants” as of today 10/2/12 are already not in the first preferred by public 10 creations since their composition is not clear and the lot of narration doesn’t follow the logic or convey any message.
    The main thing is that you have to impress By size of the artwork or any other means.”Lights in the nights”( when you release hundreds of Chinese style flowing in the air paper lanterns.)
    My thoughts are that If i have to make gigantic piece in order to have a chance in this competition it really is not worth the time.

    My work “Spring” The season of Hope” was / still is as of today exhibited in one of better places. Gerald Ford Presidential Museum Grand Rapids. Showing symbolic floral composition I knew for some time that my initial concept (developed almost overnight when I learned about the ArtPrize in january of this year.) was wrong and in order to make “impression” there must be human element. but on second thought if I have to invest time to create next gigantic 1 time show piece this is not really how I should use my time.
    In order to create real competition There should be limitation to the size of the entries so the viewer can focus more on the quality of the Art not be overwhelmed by Niagara Size Pieces (like for example the life size “Dinosaurs” standing up front of the Gerald Ford Museum. or the Taxidermia skills showed in the “Chase” composition showing bunch of real fur wolves chasing a deer.

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